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Myanmar to study women's, children's health

AFP, 1 May 2005

Myanmar's high number of pregnancy- or childbirth-related deaths and malnutrition among women and children will be the focus of two new UN-funded studies.

The first study by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) will cover 250,000 households in 120 townships, the semi-official weekly Myanmar Times said in its edition to be published Monday.

"Maternal and infant mortality rates in this country are high compared to other Southeast Asian countries," San Shway Wynn, the department's public health division director, told the paper.

A UN report found that 360 mothers died in Myanmar for every 100,000 live births in 2000.

"We have the medical knowledge and the technology, so many of those deaths could have been prevented," San Shway Wynn said.

Health officials hope the study will help them find ways to save mothers' lives, the paper said.

Military-ruled Myanmar, one of the world's poorest and most isolated countries, has a crumbling health system.

"Malnutrition is a silent killer of mothers and children and we must consider it as one of the priorities in reducing maternal and child deaths," San Shway Wynn said.

Preparations for the second study, also funded by UNICEF, would be the country's first survey of "micronutrients", he said.

National Nutrition Centre assistant director Myint Myint Zin said the study aims to uncover the extent of vitamin A, iodine and iron deficiencies among children under five and women between 15 and 49.

Both studies were due to begin in late April. The maternal morbidity study is due for a September release, while the malnutrition study is expected in August.



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